“I started out with nothing and I’ve got most of it left.” ~Groucho Marx

When I was younger, I scoffed at my mother’s suggestion to shop at thrift stores. I was embarrassed by the idea that someone might discover the origins of my purchases, or worse, catch me inside, lest I be labeled poor and/or uncool. (For the record, we were not poor, but I was uncool.)

In later years I warmed to the idea of thrift stores as a place to find something unique, or vintage. They were hip places to shop but still only received the occasional visit on shopping expeditions. A thrift store might be a fun place to visit on a Saturday afternoon, but not if I had something specific to purchase, and certainly not for anything important ie. an outfit for work, or a school presentation, etc.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to wipe away my personal stigma towards thrift stores and actually spend some time rifling through the goods for practical purchases. I now realize that buying second-hand items creates a positive impact on the environment as well as my wallet. I’ve also become savvier about where and when to shop. I’m proud to model great deals I’ve found on beautiful clothes that would, most often, be otherwise entirely out of my price range.

While I’ve just scratched the surface of thrift stores in Halifax, I’ve already come away with an armload of pieces for my wardrobe that are in great condition and likely would have cost five to ten times the price if purchased new.

If you’re planning on some shopping this weekend, I urge you to check out some local thrift stores first. You never know what you’ll find!

16 thoughts on ““I started out with nothing and I’ve got most of it left.” ~Groucho Marx

  1. I really like used clothes, because I get a preview about how they’ll wear. Does that make sense? Like, the jeans are already broken in, so I don’t have to buy jeans that are a shade too tight on the faith that they’ll stretch out a bit. Sweaters that will pill and stretch are already pilled and stretched, so I can avoid them. All the guess work of sizing and quality are out of it.
    I can’t abide second hand shoes, though. Everyone other size ten walks the wrong way and their shoes wear funny.

  2. Good point, Gill! It’s also nice to discover the quality of your purchases knowing that they’ve already held up against everyday wear and tear. The broken-in factor can sometimes pose a problem for me though. I have so much trouble finding pants that fit properly when I’m purchasing new. Second-hand pants never seem to be worn and stretched in the same places I need. Although, I have come to accept that I’ll never EVER be able to purchase pants without having to get them hemmed up several inches. It’s just my reality.

  3. If you want a real treat, head down to the southwest part of the province for an afternoon. The Frenchy’s down past Digby are usually the best ones in the province. Having shopped at thrift stores pretty much all my life, I’ve been to a few, and I always find the best deals in the ones down there. it is a bit of a drive, and harder to do on a weekend than when gas was cheaper, but if you can, it’s worth it.

  4. Gill, I choose to ignore that veiled criticism, and move on with my size tens.

    Second-hand clothing! Is there anything greater in this whole wide world? As friends of mine will know, I have somewhat of an addiction to buying jeans. And of course, if I were buying them new, I’d also have an addiction to not feeding myself (cause I’d be so dern poor, you see, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything else). This is why I bless the $3-$7 denim aisle. It’s like a dream come true. Even a $10 pair is a steal, when you compare it to the $60-$80 you often pay for nice jeans at a new-clothing store.

    It’s funny cause I never felt embarassed to buy second-hand clothes, even when I was a kid. Maybe it has something to do with the culture of thrift in my family, or the Maritimes more broadly? Not entirely sure on that one. But I’m willing to bet that it has something to do with the level of financial privilege that families experience. While my family was never “wealthy” by Western standards, we were still able to shop at new-clothing stores when needed. So thrift-shopping was a choice, not a necessity.

    I guess the environmental and social impact of reusing clothes is a wonderful side-effect that I’ve only recently started to appreciate. Hey guys, let’s do something good for the world, and go buy some used jeans!

  5. Darren, I used to go to the Frenchy’s stores around Yarmouth with my grandmother, and it’s was the same. The southern-half of the province is a thrift-store gold mine!

  6. Good idea, Darren. Perhaps this should be an expedition for team Halitrax this summer. A thrifty exploration or second-hand shopping as part of a Nova Scotia stay-cation. I always find it interesting how some cities just have great thrift stores while others (big, small, wealthy, poor) have nothing. I wonder what the determinants and causes of that are…

  7. Jan, it’s great that buying second-hand was never an issue for you. I suspect that you may be right about it having something to do with the Maritime culture. I grew up in southern Ontario (where there is no lack of affluent communities) and was under the distinct impression that thrift stores were for low-income families, Hallowe’en costumes, or occasional vintage discoveries. However, my mother (from Toronto) was always incredibly annoyed with this perception, being a fan of second-hand clothing herself.

  8. I should add that thrift stores allow us to make believe all year, not just at Hallowe’en. I mean, I just bought a Sea World t-shirt. I’ve never been to Sea World, but now I can pretend that I have. I can also buy skinny jeans and clandestinely hang out among the deviants of Agricola St. I suppose you could do that by purchasing new clothes, but thrift stores provide the means to commit acts of espionage at low cost. In fact, given the tattered state of the economy, I wouldn’t be surprised if CSIS turned to the troubled miscreants of Halifax, with their in depth knowledge of thrift culture, to sub-contract their domestic spy activities. And that makes me wonder, Krista (if that’s your real name), what are you really doing on that mountain?

  9. I have to wonder if CSIS is tapped into the local anarchist community. But maybe I’m the one that’s naive.

  10. what up halitrax!

    I am in limbo on where to buy clothes because I’ve just run into some steady income. Does that mean I have to buy new? Adding to the pressure is the gaze of my co-worker (formerly from Calgary) who always shows up with a cuff and a crease. I drew inspiration from this excellent post and scored some hot Levi corduroys (even got a nod of approval as I walked through the office door!).

    I still have a lot to learn, though…. is washing required after purchase? how can you tell what are girls or guys sunglasses when trying to be ‘hip’?

    Halifax, with three/four universities, has some serious competition for good finds. It’s the gold rush of second hand clothing out here in Victoria, uuuwweee.

    • If anyone has thrift shopping down to a science, it’s the man who returned five dollar pants to Salvo because he wasn’t satisfied with them.

  11. Jester! I thought I saw you following us on Twitter. So glad to hear from you, dude!

    Having lots of money can defo be an incentive to buy new everything. But you can build a new routine, where you scope out the second-hand places first, and if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, then you head to the mall or whatever. It’s not like I buy zero new clothes – it’s certainly a lot quicker and easier in some ways to buy at the mall – but you’d be surprised what nice clothes you can find second-hand.

    I’ve found a bunch of good work clothes, for instance. My most prized find? A nice pair of wool dress pants for only $5! Granted, I did have to sew the hem which had ripped, but that was kind of fun. And it saved me piles of money, as those suckers would have cost at least $50 if not more to buy new. Even if I’d gotten them professionally hemmed, I still would have saved lots of cash. And beyond that, I get to live with the satisfaction that a perfectly good pair of pants was saved from being tossed.

    It’s good practice to wash second-hand clothes after buying, but I’ll admit to not washing before wearing multiple times, and my skin’s never rotted off. I’m not positive as to the process, but I did see a gal with some sort of steaming aparatus “treating” used clothes at her store once, so I assume they do something to them. I dunno, maybe that’s just my high tolerance for dirty clothes speaking, as I didn’t have laundry facilities in my apartment for three years… I’d say use your best judgment.

    As for the sunglasses question: I’ve always felt that things like these are (or at least should be) gender neutral. Kind of like socks. Basically, if they fit and look good, then snag ’em. It’s hardly important whether they were “intended” for men or women. Be bold, young apprentice. And comment again soon! 🙂

  12. I ~love~ thrift shopping! Very few of the clothes I own were bought new. I joke about the fact that I’m ‘cheap’, but really I just love when I get a bargain! I like the feeling that I get from a successful trip to the Sally Ann. I enjoy the hunt for something unique through bins or racks. The laughter over a ridiculous clothing item beats no other feeling. It’s just all very satisfying. Like other women get that urge to ‘shop’, My sisters and I get the urge to thrift shop!

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